Category Archives: Results

Thornbury vs Chepstow mob match report

Generations of Chepstow children have gazed out across the shimmering Severn and wondered who was so rich and famous that they got to live in that Big White House?  The Mayor of Thornbury?  Arthur Renshaw?

So there was palpable excitement from our Mob Match opponents, Chepstow Harriers, as they turned out in force, excited by the opportunity to see this landmark abode for themselves.  Hopefully they weren’t too disappointed to discover it was a decommissioned nuclear power-plant.   Still, they must be warmly congratulated for turning out in such fantastic numbers for an away fixture in August.  Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, and owner of Thornbury Castle, must be rolling in his substantial grave.  Although his efforts to keep the Welsh at bay have been somewhat undermined in recent decades by the M4 and M48 bridges.   

With the mercury still above 30 degrees at 7pm there was a suggestion that the Mob Match be resolved over games of petanque at the Anchor, washed down with ice-cold sauvignon blanc.  Instead after a very cursory ‘warm up’ we found ourselves assembling for a 5km dash along the Mad Max-esque bleached-blonde banks of the Severn, to the consternation and utter bewilderment of the slow-strolling dog-walkers.

Any thoughts that the run out into the headwind would be a cagey and tactical affair were immediately dispelled by Nick Williams charging off at 5 min 45 mile pace.  Andy Wilson’s usual race tactic is to run himself to the point of utter exhaustion, and then accelerate. He was the only other runner willing and/or able to pick up Nick’s gauntlet, and Andy pushed his team mate all the way to the finish line.   Nick a deserved winner of the 3 mile race in 16 mins and 56 seconds, with Andy a fine second place just five seconds behind.

Phil Blackburn has taken a well-earned holiday following the end of the football season, so was maybe not quite at his sharpest, although I wonder what would have happened if he’d gone with the leaders.   He still picked his way through the field to finish in 4th place overall, just behind the lead Chepstow runner, in 17 mins 15 seconds. Conner Vidal-Cocker is a relatively recent recruit to the TRC stable, but he already looks like a thoroughbred champion in waiting.  He paced his effort to perfection, pulling away from a cohort of Chepstownians, to finish in 5th, in 17:29.  Paul Harrod, who was a human parasol for a group of runners on the out-leg, also finished strongly in 17:47 to finish 7th.   At this early stage TRC were well out in the lead of the men’s and overall race.

Unfortunately at this point Chepstow’s weight of numbers started to tell, and they stacked the positions from 8th to 30th with just a handful of TRC runners bucking the trend.   That is not to say there were not some excellent individual performances within that mix.  Jim Godden ran a fantastic 19:32; Ash Blackmore ran 20:28, while George Evans in 20:32 and Asten Haynes, 20:49, are both recovering from injury, and should be heartily thanked for turning out to bag us some points despite both knowing they’d be far further up the tow-path if fully fit.

It takes a special athlete to beat the top TRC female runners, and so we should congratulate the brilliant Katherine Matthews who won the ladies race, and was 8th overall, in 18 minutes flat.  Such was the quality of performance from Chepstow’s leading ladies that Avon 10k road champion Lucie Wilson had to settle for 4th place, in a still fabulous time of 19:28.   Club road race champion Ali Vaz was second TRC lady, and 6th overall, in 20 mins exactly.  Jo Plumbley was brilliantly consistent as always to come home next for TRC in 21:34, just 10 seconds or so ahead of Natalie Bennett who had to sprint to the line to hold off a trio of fast-finishing Harriers.   Julia Jolley in 23:33 and  Ashleigh Ferris in 24 minutes exactly made up our top 6.   Despite these wonderful efforts Chepstow won the overall ladies competition pretty decisively.

Apologies that there is not the space to mention everyone who ran.  It was, without exception, a tremendous achievement to run in that heat and to score points for our team.  Even if a few sun-sapped and heat-addled later finishers mistook the picnic table set up 50 yards up the path for the finish line. Inevitably Chepstow’s numerical advantage meant they won the match, but our senior men definitely had the edge at the top-end of the field.   Perhaps we need to annex Berkeley to boost our numbers for future matches?
A huge thank you to Kevin Wood, and his family, and all those who organised this brilliant event.   Thank you to the marshals, and especially to Carol Mosses.   She was the sole person at the kissing gate, and not only coped with a wave of runners hurtling through the tiny gap in the gate, but even had time to set up a temporary traffic-light system to give priority to the faster-returning runners.   Which also meant that our Chepstow guests got a taste of the authentic Thornbury experience.  Thank you to the Chepstow captain for organising the chip-timing; that really enhanced the race, and meant we got the results accurately and promptly.   There was a warm and convivial atmosphere between the teams as we refreshed ourselves in the gardens of the Anchor pub by the light of the Sturgeon moon.  The Harriers returned home in triumph to Chepstow – or ‘transfluvial Thornbury’ as the estate agents call it in a bid to boost house prices.  But the best result of the night was the growing consensus that this fixture is now going to be a regular event in our club calendars.

Cotswold Way Relay 2022 – race report

The Cotswold Way Relay gets harder each year. I can’t imagine the depths of endurance required, the relentless mental focus, and the sheer, bloody-minded determination it takes. Some say it is an impossible job.

Yet somehow Judy Mills manages to get three teams out, and ensures the correct race results are fed back.

As for running the race? That’s the easy bit!

A huge thank you once again to Judy, and fellow team captains Rob Watkins and Kev Cundy for coaxing and cajoling 27 TRC members to make up our three relay teams. Rob led the Firethorn team, which had to be reshuffled more times than Boris’ Cabinet – a motley crew of over-40s male veterans, who somehow managed to tape themselves up and make it to the start-line.

Kevin helmed the Quickthorn team – a mixture of some of the club’s fastest and youngest prospects, alongside some wily older hands. There really is no substitute for experience at this level. Well, apart from running speed, but let’s not be picky. Firethorn and Quickthorn looked evenly matched on paper. Last year the male vets team only secured victory by a handful of minutes with the race still up for grabs going into the final leg. Judy captained the Hawthorn team, another mixed team, although sadly not a full roster on this occasion.

There was never a chance of a repeat of 2018 and 2019’s furnace-like conditions. However the wind (and later the rain) played a significant part. Usually the prevailing south-westerly deals a glancing blow to the runners on the more exposed early stages. This year the Minchinhampton Mistral smacked into our faces with all the force of a Tyson Fury straight right, and the only time the wind eased was when the rain had settled in. It was soon apparent this was unlikely to be a year for course records.

Stage 1 often attracts some of the best runners, as the leading teams stack their line-ups. This year the stage was won by a multiple winner of the South West cross country title, and a 15 min 5k runner. That puts Ben Bohane’s eighth place overall into perspective. This was yet another remarkable run from the club’s Stokes-like all-rounder who covered this 12 mile stage, featuring savagely steep ascents and descents, in a fraction over 90 mins, despite getting lost at one point. However any thought that Quickthorn would establish a commanding early lead in the intra-club race was short-lived, as emerging out of the early-morning mist, like a modern day Owain Glyndwr (with an advanced accounting qualification) came Nathan Darkin in a fabulous run of 1hr 46 mins. Collette Jackson got Hawthorn on the board with a fine run of 1hr 56.

Paul Thomas clawed that time back for Firethorn on leg 2. His recent ultra runs on trails clearly helped him on this very demanding stage. Paul descended like a wheel of the finest Double Gloucester to take a splendid second place in the vets race, and despite an excellent CWR debut for women’s club 10k champion Ali Vaz, who ran 2hr 7mins, Paul took Firethorn into the lead. Not far behind Ali was Julia Jolley in 2hrs 15.

Chris Foley and Mike Bennewitz would be quietly confident in any race that was scored on an age-adjusted basis. However the CWR is done solely on time, yet they still did their teams proud. On the journey up, Chris suggested he was aiming for 1hr 45, but instead obliterated that mark with a fabulous time of just over 1hr 28 mins. Mike was not far behind, finishing as the rain began to fall, with an excellent 1hr 39. Paul Harrod took Firethorn into the lead in the overall vets competition with a solid run of 1hr 6 mins, that earned him a top-10 place, and second male veteran. That would have been two minutes quicker if not for getting lost on one section, and quicker still if he could find a way of negotiating the sharpest descents in a style that doesn’t resemble a broken fridge-freezer being lowered into a municipal skip.

Sadly there was no runner for Hawthorn on leg 4, but there was excitement in seeing whether Danny Bonnett could extend Firethorn’s lead over Quickthorn, especially when up against club legend Jo Plumbley, who has run the Cotswold Way so frequently I’m surprised they haven’t named a section after her. Danny did a brilliant job in what I think may be his club racing debut (??) finishing 4th veteran in 1hr 38. Jo ran brilliantly, as always, and her 2hr 7 mins was very competitive in her personal age category, but the remorseless logic of the stopwatch meant that team Firethorn was now pulling ahead. Would the club competition be over before we even got to Stroud?

Not so fast! Leg 5 saw one of the day’s highlights, and an extremely rare, and therefore all the more celebrated, stage win for TRC. The brilliant Sean Leadbetter managed to outsprint his Bristol and West rival to complete the 11.7 mile stage in a staggering (literally, at the end, I imagine) 1hr and 20 mins. A quite brilliant achievement – chapeau! Sean’s win grabbed back some time for Quickthorn, but not perhaps as much as might be expected, because Firethorn had the ever-reliable George Evans – the Lycra Woman’s Nigel Havers – on the same leg. George was inside the top 15 – second veteran – and only conceded 16 minutes to the outstanding stage winner. Judy Mills took a break from the incessant race admin by running 2hrs and 28 mins for Hawthorn.

Kev Cundy and Jim Williams finished stage 6 almost at the same time, both recording 1hr 47 mins over one of the legs with more elevation than descent: Ebley Mill to Dursley. Chris Worrall buttressed Firethorn’s lead with a wonderful run of 1hr and 15 minutes, which started to pull the team safely into the top 3 of the overall veterans’ competition. Chris was also second vet in the race, and 9th overall. I hope he is going to be a regular racer for TRC over the roads and trails for many years to come.

There was eager anticipation to see the outcome of the race on stage 7 between father and son-in-law Kevin Wood and Chris Pritchard. In the end the gaps between all three TRC runners was the closest of any stage. Ellen Perrett had an excellent race for Hawthorn, and finished in 1hr 27 minutes. Kevin kept Firethorn in the hunt for overall veteran competition honours by running 1h 16. Chris played it safe, and rather like surreptitiously missing a putt on the 18th when playing golf against your boss, he finished a discrete couple of minutes behind Kevin! In all seriousness, Kevin deserves our congratulations, and thanks, for overcoming some significant back pain to not only race, but to do so with distinction.

Stage 8 is one of the longest and toughest in the race, and so Firethorn needed a dependable runner to maintain their lead over Quickthorn, and aim for a strong position in the overall team competition. Thankfully they had that in Garry Slater, who finished in a magnificent third place in the vets race in 1hr 38. Sadly Quickthorn didn’t have a runner for this stage, which essentially ended the intra-TRC competition, but Hawthorn had Rob Hopkins, who must have wondered what the fuss was all about – (only 12 miles of 1 in 3 gradient – too easy!) – who ran 2hrs and 8 minutes.

If a TRC stage win is a rarity, two in a day is possibly a first! The club librarians are still consulting the archives, but I think Taryn Roberts has once again made history. She was the clear winner in the tough stage 9 – and recorded the 6th fastest time by a female athlete in the history of that stage, in 1hr 9 mins and 52 seconds. More importantly she beat Rob Watkins by seven seconds, and I wish I’d been there to witness that sprint finish into Cold Ashton! To be so close to Taryn meant that Rob obviously had a wonderful race himself, and he was yet another Firethorn runner to come home as second male veteran overall. In my opinion Clare Watt is arguably the best runner in the club on an age-graded basis, and while this race is done purely on time, her effort of 1hr 24 minutes was still an incredibly good performance. I think Clare, Rob and stage-winner Taryn win the award for best collective stage by TRC runners this year.

And so, as the afternoon sun dappled across the honey-coloured stones of Bath Abbey (or maybe the rain lashed against the buttresses and battlements – it was a day of changeable weather) Hannah Hamilton and Jim Godden completed another successful day of racing. The final stage, like the opening stage, tends to have some of the best overall runners, so their positions as eighth woman and seventh male veteran would probably have been higher had they raced on other legs. Jim finished in 1hr 16 and Hannah in 1hr 20.

The remarkable consistency of the Firethorn vets team won us a third place overall in the team competition – in a cumulative time of 14hrs and 29 minutes, just 8 minutes behind Team Bath. We just should have run 1% quicker and we’d have been second! That is still a fantastic team performance, and (lente, lente, currite noctis equi) the inexorable march of time means that some of the club’s promising young mid-30 year olds should soon become available for selection. Team Quickthorn need to regroup and lick their (presumably bramble?) wounds. They were missing a few of the club’s very fastest runners this year, but should be more than consoled with two heroic stage wins for Sean and Taryn. Hawthorn sadly didn’t get a full team out this year, but still have some excellent individuals performances, especially if age-graded results were taken into account.

Next year the Cotswold Way Relay wends it way through Clarkson Country on Saturday 1st July. Please put the date in your diary, and let’s give the team captains some selection headaches to go alongside the admin ones!

parkrun of the month for June – and Bradley Stoke 10k race reports

Thornbury Running Club finally provided definitive proof to the age-old question that has divided the long-distance athletics community for years: does eating pizza washed down by a couple of pints of lager fewer than 36 hours before a big race improve performance?

And we can say, with confident assurance – yes it does.

That’s the only plausible explanation for the flurry of PBs that TRC members recorded at the ‘parkrun’ of the month’, which took place on Saturday at Chipping Sodbury, not long after our very enjoyable club night at the Olveston social club.  To those who say that Domino’s and San Miguel might not be the optimal nutritional strategy for a flat out 5K, I just say ‘follow the science’.

Paul Thomas had at least nine slices of pizza, (‘OK, this is getting into libel territory now’ Ed.) and that, rather than his consistent and focused training mileage, was the direct cause of his stunning new course PB of 19:14, for 11th place overall, and an age-graded score just under the magic 80%.   Hannah Hamilton had also been partaking of the pepperoni and she was rewarded by essentially equalling her PB, to finish second women overall – which is a fantastic achievement – and running 20:45.  Nathan Darkin had a pizza the action as well, and smashed his PB , (21:32), while Chris Foley was only a handful of seconds outside of his best which was set more than three years ago.

This month’s parkrun coincided with the graduation of the most recent cohort of the ‘couch to 5k’ beginners.   Congratulations to all of them, and thank you to the TRC coaches for continuing to run these excellent sessions.    Melinda Evans and Sam Glew were among the TRC members to run Chipping Sodbury parkrun for the first time.

Elsewhere last Saturday, other thin-crust crusaders included Ben Bohane winning Thornbury parkrun for the 12th time in 18:26; Phil Blackburn running his fastest parkrun time at any venue, coming third at Burgess parkrun in a brilliant 17:15, while Simon Pinnington ran 20:01 to come first at Wotton for the fifth time.   More observant readers might point out that Simon didn’t make it to the beer and pizza night, and thus our ground-breaking dietary study is undermined, but I can assure you that Simon had at least three Thatchers’ and a Papa John’s the night before, so the evidence base is further strengthened.

A handful of TRC members also turned out for the Bradley Stoke 10k, which was held on Sunday 5th June.  This is an extremely popular event organised by another thriving local club the (hey sisters) Sole Sisters.   Tom Usherwood was first TRC runner in 44:27, finishing in an excellent 5th place in his age category, which is as venerable as Joe Root’s test match batting average.  Paul Saville wasn’t far behind in 46:41, while Chris Pritchard (51:37) and Paul Reeves (58:01) made up our male team for this event.   Carol Mosses was the sole TRC sister this time around, and finished in 1hr 18 mins.

Hogweed Trot – Pete Mainstone Challenge, race 2

Round 2 of this year’s Pete Mainstone Challenge took place in Yate – the only town in South Gloucestershire that simultaneously rhymes with ‘great’ and ‘party’ depending on how posh your accent is.

The Hogweed Trot is another impeccably organised local event that doubles as the Avon County 10k road Championships, and attracts a commensurately high-calibre roster of runners.

The organisers again claim it is a ‘pan-flat’ course – (is there a conspiracy amongst the race directors?) – but the roads are as rolling as the stir-fry wok at a hall of residence’s communal kitchen. However it takes place on quiet country roads on the edge of the town, with the final mile a gentle downhill to the finish on a cyclepath.

Andy Wilson is TRC’s Jason Kenny – no matter how fantastic his own performance is, all anyone wants to talk about is how amazing his wife is! I’ll come to Andy’s run in a moment, but first we must acknowledge Lucie Wilson, who ran a course record 40:20, to win her race and take the coveted county champion crown. Lucie is only an occasional runner with TRC – as she competes at a high level at netball – but after this stunning run we hope she might nail her colours firmly to TRC’s mast, and come and win a lot more races with us cheering her on. Mainly from some distance behind!

Hannah Hamilton also had a wonderful race, and finished in 5th place in 43:39. Strava suggests this was a 10k PB, but whatever it was, Hannah is racing well, with consistency, and is hopefully taking a lot of encouragement from that.

We had a strong turnout from Thornbury’s male runners. Phil Blackburn paced his effort to perfection, holding back slightly over the first 5k before marauding through the field to clinch a 10th place finish in a new PB of 36:51. The exciting thing for Phil, and for the club, is that he’s still going to get faster for at least a few more years, assuming he can maintain his obvious enthusiasm for, and dedication to, his training.

Andy Wilson set off as usual like a Diamond League pace-maker on a caffeine buzz. If his run last Sunday at the TRC championships was mesmeric, this effort was merely sensational. It’s possible the effort of six days earlier caught up with him a fraction, as he couldn’t hold off Phil on this occasion, but he still finished in 12th place overall in 37:09.

Paul Harrod was the next TRC male runner in 37:54, in 16th place, even though his chip-timer didn’t register. DB Max aren’t accepting his proffered explanation that his sprint-finish exceeded the maximum conceivable speed, so it is possible that the 10p metal chip was just a dud. Simon Pinnington had another marvellous run, and went inside 39 minutes with an excellent 38:46. The age-graded scores still need to be fed into Mel Lloyd’s SuperComputer, but it seems probable that Simon will score very highly in the overall PMC competition.

George Evans just missed out, yet again, on a sub 40 min 10k; clearly his in-demand work as a Samba and Salsa instructor might be taking the edge off his finishing speed. But he still produced another fine performance to finish in 40:14. George was just ahead of Asten Haynes in 40:21. Asten is another runner who is going to go under 40 minutes very soon, and he has another opportunity in the Bradley Stoke 10k later this week.

Tom Usherwood was next home in 44:29. I have a hunch that is a 10k PB for Tom, but either way he is running extremely well at the moment. Nick Langridge, who is as ever-green as the perkiest pine, ran 44:38, to take his inevitable, if still well-earned, victory in the V70 category. Chris Foley was second V70, and just missed out on a sub-50 run, with a highly creditible 50:43. Arthur Renshaw completed the TRC septuagenarian champagne trio, with 56:14. Paul Saville ran 46:43 and David Flemington 65:42 to complete this strong team performance from TRC’s men.

TRC 10k championships – and recent race round-up

If Arthur Renshaw ever invites you for dinner on Shrove Tuesday, you might want to think twice before accepting.

At the pre-race briefing for the Club 10k championships, Arthur assured us that most of the course was “pan flat” – which makes you question how much heat his kitchen utensils would transfer to the pancake batter!

In fact, the course did get flatter as it went on – and in my view Arthur and the TRC committee have found a fantastic route to relaunch the Thornbury 10k in July.    It begins with seriously steep climbs and descents out of Oldbury; on into the tiny hamlet of Cowhill (although I bet the estate agents still call it Oldbury-on-Severn); followed by bumpy bits in and around Kington, before a final two-mile loop on the outskirts of Oldbury that takes you back into the heart of the village for the finish.  It is a test of race strategy, as well as endurance, and it should certainly be possible to run a negative split if you can avoid the temptation to run too hard on those opening climbs.

A huge thank you to the volunteer marshals who made sure the event ran smoothly, and will help refine the plan ahead of the race later in the summer when we expect up to 200 runners to take part.

It was a warm and sunny Sunday morning, even by 8.30am when the first runners arrived at the Anchor Inn, where the race would start and finish.   You don’t normally see that many scantily-clad people congregating at a pub so early in the morning unless you’re about to board a flight to Malaga.   The Anchor management kindly let us use the outdoor toilets, and given the high percentage of middle-aged men taking part that was a mercy.

Jack and Rory Williams were there to check out the course on which they intend to win the 2038 edition of the race.   They enthusiastically rang their cow bells as we set off, and were still shaking them with undimmed enthusiasm an hour or so later when the final runner came home.  It gave the opening climb something of an Alpe D’Huez vibe, but fortunately their mum, Lizzie, had confiscated the orange smoke flares.

Rory and Jack already knew their dad was awesome, but Nick reminded the rest of the club of that fact, with a stunning run in 35:44, which I am told is the best 10k time by a TRC male runner in nearly a decade.  Nick could go at least a minute quicker on a properly flat course!

Nick led from the gun, and had already put about 10 seconds on the second place runner by the time we passed Oldbury parish church.   Before the start, I predicted the finishing order of the runners would be the same as at the top of that first climb.  But like driving to the very edge of Almondsbury village, it ain’t Over till it’s Over. 

Andy Wilson was second up the hill, motoring to his usual fast start, but showed how much his endurance levels have improved to hold on to that position, despite the quality of the runners behind him, and finish in 37:07.  Andy’s best run in TRC colours so far I’d suggest.

Phil Blackburn deployed a different strategy and was much more circumspect up the opening hills, and he was the only runner to come through the field, moving from 5th to 3rd, to record an excellent time of 37:22.   Sean Leadbetter did struggle slightly in the closing miles, but that’s all relative.   He was still fourth in 38 mins flat.   Ben Bohane continued his remarkable run of results with 38:11 in fifth place, although like Paul Harrod (39:02; 6th), is possibly at his best on the flatter road routes, and/or evening events.  Both were notably down on their Berkeley 10k PBs.

George Evans has the most elegant and efficient upright running style – honed by bounding hurdles topped with champagne coupes set out by his butler at his Kington estate.  George pulled away from Asten Haynes in the final mile to finish in 40:25, with Asten a mere 19 seconds behind.   Paul Thomas (42:11) and Pete Cable (44:05) completed the male top 10.

Ali Vaz was an equally emphatic winner of the women’s race, and also finished inside the overall top 10.   Ali ran a brilliant race and completed the tough course in 42:15.   Jo Plumbley – just a week after finishing another gruelling ultra – managed to outsprint Hannah Hamilton, and pip her by 44:50 to 44:54.   

Nikki Foss ran her overall 10k PB, which is a magnificent achievement.  She ran 51:54, and I am sure there is much more to come, as she has fractionally more time to devote to training now the demands of motherhood are merely relentless as opposed to all-consuming!  Congratulations to junior runner Abbey Bonnet for coming in 5th place in the women’s race in a fabulous time of 53:40, and for making sure her dad, Danny, didn’t get lost or get into mischief on the way round.

As the TRC committee decided that this would be a straight shoot-out for the club championship, there isn’t space to list all the results.  However please check out the website to see the full standings.  Many of the other performances were just as impressive on an age-graded basis, but we weren’t recording those on this occasion.

Finally, a brief roundup of some of highlights during the previous fortnight.

Ros, Jo and Natalie – the 3 Amigas – ran the 40 mile Stroud Ultra together.  Literally, ran it together, as they paced each other round to finish at the same time, in 9 hours and 54 minutes.   All very civilised, and each of them got medals in their age categories; in Ros and Jo’s cases it was gold!

Ben Bohane ran his first ever ultra, in Pembrokeshire – a race that attracted a high quality field from across the UK, and he only went and finished 6th!   Stunning run, for a guy I’m running out of superlatives for.  Well, I ran out of them a while ago, but just hope you’ll forgive the etymological recycling.

Mark West ran one of the best marathon races in recent TRC history, with an excellent 3hrs and 8 mins.   At the other end of the scale, Phil Blackburn was the first TRC member to race in a county 1500m track championship for quite some time.  In his first attempt at the distance since he was school, Phil bravely tracked the leaders for the first few laps, and while he inevitably had to descend into the pain cave over the last 400m, he still finished in a brilliant 4 mins and 33 seconds.   I am sure he can improve on that, and I’d also like to challenge Andy Wilson to try one too!

Highlights from the parkruns include, 14th May, a first place at Lydney for Dylan Roberts in 18:08, (followed by a second at Berkeley Green the following week). and a 19:06 PB at Severn Bridge for Simon Pinnington. 

On the 21st May, Jo Webster ran her 104th parkrun – which is a great achievement – and completed the Thornbury run in 26:34.    Catherine Dack was fourth women at Wotton (sounds like a Shakespeare play) in a new PB of 26:29, while at Severn Bridge, Richard Jackson equalled his course PB of 21:31, but given the windy conditions I estimate that to be a real terms decrease of 15 seconds.

Berkeley 10k and parkrun of the month race report

On Sunday, several TRC members had the privilege of improving their running technique under the expert eye of coach Shane Benzie.   However the early proof of that pudding was to be tasted the following evening, as they lined up for the Berkeley 10k, the first event in this year’s Pete Mainstone Challenge.

During the warm-up there were admiring glances from other club members as we arched our backs and locked our eyes on the horizon, like Kate Winslet on the bow of the Titanic; or cycled our legs under our centre of mass like Roadrunner; or placed our forefingers on our thumbs and drove our elbows back, like a Yoga Master bisecting logs with a tiny saw.

Sorry, maybe you had to be there on Sunday!

Anyway, Shane’s input has already borne fruit, as several members ran their course, or even all-time, 10k PBs.

It’s particularly hard to single out any individual in such an impressive, collective, set of results.  I’m tempted to award it to Hannah Hamilton who ran a fantastic 43.56, and finished 12th in the women’s race – the best overall result by any TRC member.

Yet how can we not applaud Ben Bohane, who, just nine days after racing a ludicrous 34 miles along the Pembrokeshire Coast, pitched up at Berkeley and knocked a full minute of last year’s time to finish in 21st place in 37.05?  That’s 21st in a race that attracts runners from across the region and was won by an outstanding senior athlete who was a former silver medallist in the English schools 3000m.  Yet again one wonders how fast Ben could run if he ever actually tapered for a race!  

So Hannah and Ben were the two stars of the evening, but they were by no means the only ones to produce an outstanding performance.

Not far behind Ben was Phil Blackburn, who will represent the club in the Avon county 1500m championships on Sunday.  Phil proved once again that his endurance level is starting to approach that of his jaw-dropping raw pace, and finished a mere 4 seconds further back in 22nd place.   Paul Harrod ran his 10k PB and finished in 37.22, 27th overall, and third VM45.

When I wrote last week that I felt Simon Pinnington’s form was so good that he could get under 40 minutes at Berkeley, I was intending to pay him a compliment!   This was a rough extrapolation from his recent parkrun performances.  However it shows how bad my maths is, because Simon himself was aiming to go more than a full minute faster!  Hopefully he doesn’t read these reports…  In the end, Simon ran a wonderful PB of 39.02, but such is the measure of his recent improvement, that he was a little disappointed.   He was fifth VM50, and 44th overall.

Asten Haynes narrowly missed out on running sub 40, but only by 10 seconds.  That was a very notable run, and Asten is another club member who is naturally quick, and is now building an aerobic base that means he can be highly competitive in the longer distances.  The same is true of Tom Usherwood who is racing regularly, and with great consistency, and should be delighted with his time of 44.17.

I’ve written this before, but it bears repeating: a quick scan of the results might mean you overlook Nick Langridge’s performance.  He finished in 45.11, and for most of the race looked like he might get under 45 minutes.   That is still a fine run, but to do so while now competing in the VM70 age-grade is truly exceptional.  It goes without saying Nick won his age category race.

Paul Saville finished in 47.33, and sneaked into the top 100 of the men’s race by finishing 99th.  Kevin Wood had a busy weekend – running at the parkrun of the month, and attending Shane’s workshop.  Yet he once again produced a stellar performance to finish in 49.42 and fifth in age category.   Lizzie Williams was just  seconds outside the 50 minute barrier and a highly creditable 30th place overall in the women’s race.  Some of the club’s loyal and long-standing legends completed our line up.  Hugh McPherson 55.44; Arthur Renshaw in 57.10 and Mel Lloyd in 1hr 10.   In all cases they ran strong races and finished inside the top 10 in their age categories, so their results are entirely comparable with many of their younger teammates further up the standings.

The amazing members of Dursley running club put on another wonderful event.   I’m biased – I don’t think anyone organises races better than we do – but Dursley runs us close!  Once again, the good burghers of Berkeley were out on the streets to offer their support.   I’m always amazed how few cars are out and about – it really does feel like it is a closed road event, even though it isn’t!

Last Saturday was ‘parkrun of the month’ and we were back at Severn Bridge.   Sixteen members took part, which is a good number, especially as lots of us wanted to save our legs for Berkeley just two days later.

Andrew Darton was first TRC member, running a course PB of 20.28.   Chris Pritchard is improving noticeably and came home in his PB of 25.01 – so close to a 24 minute something time.   Jonathan Hall, 22.34 and Ashleigh Ferris, 26.26 ran the event for the first time.   

Congratulations to Kev Cundy for completing his 50th parkrun.   Hope he got a cheer from the Chepstownian locals for that achievement, followed by a chorus of boos when it was revealed he came from ‘that Thornbury’.   Kev ran with wife Suzie and let her finish 1 second ahead of him in 29.12.   Who says chivalry is dead?  Finally, the PB machine that is Carol Mosses – the Birkenhead Dibaba – raced to another personal landmark, finishing in 36.56.

parkrun and other race round ups – w/e 10th and 17th April

We’ve enjoyed almost perfect Spring weather these past two Saturdays, and TRC members have eschewed the hot-cross buns and headed instead for the local parks to record some excellent parkrun results. And then scoffed the buns!

It is so encouraging to see TRC members be rewarded for their consistent hard work in training. Carol Mosses recently ran the Cardiff half-marathon – racing alongside her children to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society.   Yet then that pesky Covid struck, and just when you thought that would wipe out her excellent progress, Carol got up off her sick bed and stormed to a course PB of 37:05 at Chipping Sodbury.     It was also good to see Jay Bartley plotting his way back to full fitness with a run of 27:27; there’s a lot more to come, and hopefully that will be soon.

Strava seemed to suggest that Chris Pritchard waded through the sea for much of his 30:34 PB at Woolacombe Dunes.  I suspect that was a GPS gremlin, although striding through the surf would only add a little extra to the already brutal course they have devised at Woolacombe.   Still, excellent selection of post-race coffee shops to choose from, and after a PB that flat white tastes all the creamier.

Speaking of Strava art, the organisers at Wotton Parkrun say their course map resembles a butterfly.   I’d say it is more like a pterodactyl fossil, but either way Wotton is a hilly, off-road course that means very few male runners have ever got under the 20 minute barrier.  Simon Pinnington won the race in 20:07, which is the umpteenth time he has peppered the 20 min mark and not quite hit it, but at that pace he will continue to win that particularly tough event more often than not.

Mallards Pike is winning a lot of plaudits as one of the friendliest and most picturesque parkruns around.  TRC’s Starsky and Hutch, Roger Glew and Tom Witherbed, popped over the bridge to sample the park’s coffee and cake concessionary stand, and decided to run the race at the same time.   Both performed admirably on a single-lap course that is either uphill or downhill, with precious little flat    Roger ran 25 mins, and Tom finished in 28:05.

The following Saturday – Easter Saturday – saw club members out in force, and the far-flung locations probably give us a clue as to where their extended families live! 
Paul Reeves ran 23:58 at a packed Southampton parkrun; Kevin Arnold ran a rapid 22:08 at Wolverhampton; Melanie Wilson finished in an outstanding 4th place in the Gateshead parkrun, running 22.10, and it is no mean feat to do that in the running hotbed than produced the likes of Foster, Spedding and Cram.   The ever-improving Phil Blackburn ran an incredible 17:15 at Burgess and finished 5th overall.

There were still plenty of runners at our local events too.   Suzie Cundy ran an excellent personal best of 30:09 at the twisty-turny, stop/start course at Berkeley Green.   Mel Lloyd also ran there and finished in 33:27.    Paul Harrod recorded 18 mins precisely at Severn Bridge, and despite collapsing his body to the ground and having a toddler tantrum the implacable race director refused to accept his Strava time of 17:59.   Simon Pinnington ran a fantastic PB of 18:54 at Chipping Sodbury, and is now just a fraction off that benchmark age-graded score of 80% which suggests the athlete is of a national standard for their age and gender.  Paul Clark ran that race for the first time and was 32nd overall in 21:28.  

Finally, there was still an excellent turnout at the Mundy playing fields for our ‘home’ parkrun.   Sean Leadbetter and Ben Bohane ran together at the front of the race, Sean just out-sprinting Ben to finish in his course PB of 18:35, with Ben just three seconds behind. Asten Haynes was 5th in 19:34. Special mention must also go to Paul Saville who ran the Westonbirt half marathon the previous day in just over 1hr 35 mins, and then turned out the next morning and ran 26:22 – a time many would be delighted with after a full week’s taper. Natalie Bennett was just 36 minutes outside her PB, but that was, of course, because she was kindly volunteering as the tail-walker. Hopefully we’ll get to see her running the race at full gas sometime very soon.

p.s I neglected to mention in previous reports the excellent results in the Frampton Globe Trot: an off-road, 8 mile race, that took place at the start of this month when the ground was a lot muddier than it is now. Apologies to the ladies, but I don’t have separate results for the women’s race, just the overall finishing places. Melanie Wilson was the first TRC runner, and finished in 19th place overall, in 1hr and 2 minutes, and would have been much higher in the standalone women’s race. The other members of Team TRC were Lizzie Williams 30th 1hr 06; Roger Glew 50th 1hr 12; Chris Foley 61st 1hr 15; Hugh McPherson 73rd 1:19; Kev Cundy and Sonya Bryson finishing together in 92nd and 93rd places in 1hr 21 mins. These are all excellent times for an off-road race of that distance.

Parkrun of the month – and recent race results round-up.

The ‘parkrun of the month’ has been an excellent addition to the club’s racing and social calendars.  Last Saturday’s edition was held at Chipping Sodbury, and I thought I detected some chattering teeth in the obligatory pre-race team photo as our hardy cohort braved the sub-zero temperature.

All the more impressive then, that several members secured PBs in the race.   Martin Coyle ran his fastest time at this event in 24:47, and was just a few seconds ahead of Catherine Dack and Chris Pritchard who came in together in 24:54.  Catherine and Chris have been quietly putting in some very consistent racing performances in recent months and it is fantastic to see ongoing improvements in finishing times.

Hannah Hamilton didn’t quite get a PB, but did secure a PTPB – a post-Toby personal best – and was still inside 21 minutes, and first TRC runner home in the race, as well as fourth female overall.   Richard Jackson went under 22 minutes for an excellent 33rd position, while Paul Reeves and Collette Jackson were just a handful of places apart in 23.40 and 24.04 respectively.   Kevin Wood, 24.17; Jay Bartley, 28.26 and Mel Lloyd, 34.12 completed a strong showing from the club.  

To complete this brief report, just a few highlights from other races in March that haven’t been properly acknowledged. Apologies if I missed anyone out!

Despite the rumours that their agents were deliberately keeping them apart, we finally got to witness the clash between 10 times Thornbury parkrun winner Nick Williams, and 10 times Thornbury parkrun winner, Ben Bohane.  The Duel by the Dis-used Paddling Pool.   Who would prevail, and earn the title of the Mundy GOAT? That’s ‘goat’ as in the ‘greatest of all time’; the Mundy goat is the horned ruminant occasionally spotted at dusk chomping on the allotment brassicas.

Ben continues to amaze with the regularity and consistency of his racing performances, and he doggedly/goatedly tracked Nick on the first lap, before Nick’s awesome aptitude on the ascents and descents made the eventual difference.  Notwithstanding the soggy corners in the far field Nick had to equal his course PB of 17.31 – the fifth fastest time in the history of the event – in order to shake off Ben.   Ben smashed his PB, running 17.54, and was rightly, and understandably, delighted with that.

The following week saw the youngest ever winner at the Thornbury parkrun.  Well done to Thomas Darton who won in a fantastic time of 19.10.   “He’s big, he’s bad, he’s faster than his dad…!”

Ros Rowland and Jo Plumbley are TRC’s version of Thelma and Louise, but happily they tend to run along cliff edges rather than drive off them.   This weekend they were separated, with Jo running ridiculous distances in Spain, while Ros took on the challenge of the ‘Axe to Exe’ race – a 20 mile trail run which is so steep in parts they have installed steps.  Ros covered that ground in an amazingly rapid time of 4hrs and 20 mins.   She was fourth in her age category, which is a great result full stop, but when you realise that these relatively rare ultra races attract national, and even international standard fields, then that is all the more noteworthy.

If Ros and Jo are Thelma and Louise, then Paul Thomas is Forrest Gump; his jaw-dropping weekly mileage burnishing a Rolls Royce aerobic engine.   Paul is preparing for one of these crazy Ultras that TRC members seem to enjoy, and so used the Forest of Dean Spring Trails half-marathon by way of warm up.  He was rewarded with a rapid time of 1hr 34 mins, which is exceptionally good on such undulating terrain.

Paul only narrowly edged out Henry Orna, who ran his best race for some time, with an excellent 1 hr 35.   Paul Clark went under 1hr 40, with Richard Jackson just the other side of that time – both fine efforts on that course.  Chris Foley continued his impressive series of recent results with a 2hr and 16 min time, which ensured he was inside the top 10 in his age category: the only TRC runner to manage that feat.   Emma Barnes was the sole TRC lady, and she ran 2hrs and 22 minutes.

On Mothering Sunday, Theatre Royal matinee idol George Evans allowed his wife to look after the kids for a change while he stampeded through the Lee Valley to complete the half-marathon in the fabulous time of 1hr 24 mins and 33 seconds.   That placed him 9th overall in the entire race, which is an incredible achievement in an event that attracted well over 300 runners.   

Bitton Mob Match race report

We couldn’t have chosen a better evening to hold our ‘Mob Match’ against Bitton Road Runners.   The first evening after the clocks go forward is always infused with hopeful anticipation of long, languid summer days to come.  We had glorious, balmy weather, and the pleasure of finishing an evening race, and eating a restorative ice-cream, with the sun still present and correct in the sky.

The only downside was a clash with Mother’s Day, which ruled out quite a few of our strongest runners – either doing their duty to their own mother, basking in their offspring’s adulation, or perhaps snoozing off the effects of that extra glass of lunchtime prosecco.  One or two heard the race route was planned by a psychopath, and so stayed away in fear.  In fact our hosts picked a fine ‘out and back’ route along the Bristol to Bath cycle path.

Mob matches are not for the faint hearted.  The rivalry with Chepstow is a bitter one – whose castle has the superior buttresses; whose Secondary School is in a greater state of disrepair – and yet there was even more at stake this time.  Bitton provocatively staged the event at the train station – a cruel dig at the Beeching railway cuts that afflicted Thornbury – yet our intrepid crew rose above the psychological games.   Huddling together for support and comfort we ignored the caustic jibes flung across the carpark from the opposition:  ‘How lovely to see you’; ‘please do stay for cream-cakes afterwards’.   That sort of thing. 

In truth their mob was bigger than ours; home advantage surely being the deciding factor, and so it was always likely Bitton would take the overall event victory.   However there were still individual and team competitions up for grabs.

Jo Plumbley had a wonderful race, pacing her effort to perfection, to win the 4.25 mile race well inside 30 minutes.   Jo led home Hannah Hamilton in second place – although Hannah had a little difficulty in the final mile which probably cost her some time, although she still went inside the 30 minute barrier, which is 7 minute mile pace.  Ros Rowland stormed home in third place in 33:57 and the clear winner in her age category.   The TRC 1-2-3 meant that our ladies secured the team competition before Bitton could get the first of their counters to the end of the board.   

Catherine Dack, 35:06, and Karen Carr, 40;31, also ran excellent races to ensure the team title really was safe, while it was great to see Samantha Glew run in what I think was her competitive debut for the club?  She kindly paced her husband Roger round the course; Rog being told he couldn’t have an ice-cream unless he ran the whole way without stopping!

The men’s race attracted a larger field, and so the outcome of that competition would also decide the overall Mob Match results.  Sadly TRC missed most of our fastest runners, when any one of the likes of Nick, Sean, Ben or George could have conceivably have won the race.

However there is no one in the club – probably no in the county – who could beat Phil Blackburn in a sprint finish.   Bitton’s top athlete went out from the off, and set a relentless sub 6-min mile pace throughout.  Yet Phil tracked him all the way, and like Steve Ovett in the early 80s, just put on the after-burners in the final 200m to stride away to a six second victory, in 25 mins and 2 secs.

Behind the top 2, was a battle for the top male veteran.  Paul Harrod had trained at altitude in Iten, Kenya for the past fortnight, such is his dedication to the club, and was rewarded with a fourth place in 25:33.  It looked hopeful that he might pip the Bitton vet for third, but he had no match for his rival’s final 800m surge to the line.

Asten Haynes continues to improve and impress, and he was next TRC male home in 27:16.  Alan Gatling and Tom Usherwood have both been recording strong parkrun times recently, and that showed with their 8th and 9th place finishes, respectively, in 28:18 and 28:56.

This was the point where the lack of Thornbury runners began to count.   Nick Langridge was 14th, an amazing result for a V70, in a time just outside 30mins.  Kevin Wood and Chris Foley also completed the course ahead of several runners they had at least a decade, if not more, on!   Yet, alas, our numbers ran out, and the hordes of Bitton runners surged across the line, whooping in triumph; their overall team victory some consolation for lack of access to the motorway network and a paucity of artisan coffee shops.

In all seriousness, a huge thank you to the wonderful team at Bitton.    They put on a splendid event, and could not be more welcoming and gracious to us.    We hope we can offer them a return match in the future.  In the meantime look out for a date in August for a return match with those scoundrels from Chepstow.   They’re mocking the low gradient of our high street, and bizarre layout of our parks.  Will you let that stand, Thornbury?!

Cross-Country, Dursley Dozen and parkrun round-up.

Surprisingly there are very few Hallmark Valentine’s Day cards featuring two sweaty runners adorned in lycra locking eyes across a Parkrun start line.   “Your pace, or mine?”

Yet something was obviously in the air at the Mundys to encourage such a wonderful turnout from TRC for our ‘parkrun of the month’.    Maybe it was the thought of the pink-frosted heart-shaped treats that made a welcome refuelling alternative to the medjool dates?  

Yet again the Duracell Bunny in human form, Ben Bohane, was first across the line in a time of 19:43, now taking him above Nick Williams as the runner with the most first finishes at this race.  I ask again: does Ben ever have a bad run?    (Spoiler alert, possibly in Dursley).   It then got a bit ridiculous, as TRC runners filled almost all the rest of the top 10 male finishers, with Asten Haynes, Nathan Darkin, Alan Gatling, Paul Thomas, Sean Leadbetter, Tom Usherwood and Andrew Darton following Ben home. (Not literally).   Julia Jolley was the first Thornbury woman runner, and a very impressive third overall.   Catherine Dack was sixth overall, and ran a new course PB in 27:53.   To do so in this weather, and underfoot conditions, is a sign of significant improvement.

Highlights from the previous two weeks’ parkruns included:  Ben Bohane winning both Thornbury on the 29th January, and then Berkeley Green the following Saturday.   TRC’s London Marathon record holder, and late 90s Milk Tray Man, George Evans, continued to impress with a brilliant new Mundy’s PB of 19:38.   At Chipping Sodbury on the 29th, Taryn Roberts was fourth woman in 20:44, and James Harrod fourth male in 16:34.    On the 5th Feb, Clare Watt was, yet again, first woman at Thornbury.   TRC’s growing strength in depth amongst the male team was reinforced by top 10 finishes at the same event for Adam Frontczak, Jonathan Hall, Moray Sloan, Tom Usherwood and Henry Orna.

Feb 13th was the second round of the Gloucestershire Cross Country league.   Sadly the team was significantly weaker than usual, with the clash with the Dursley Dozen, and a few Covid absences, meaning we didn’t really have a chance of recording a meaningful score as a team.   It was a foul day in Cheltenham, with 25mph winds and incessant rain.  By the time the men ran at the end of the day the entire course had a slippery sheen of mud.

James Harrod was the outstanding male runner of the day.   He ended up running almost the entire race on his own, not quite able to bridge the gap to two runners ahead of him, but still strong enough to hold off the runners behind.   He finished in 9th place, in 38:19, although on this occasion he had to cede the U20 race to a very talented junior from Birchfield Harriers who was 13 seconds ahead of him.    Andy Wilson is moving up the ranks in these races, and now pacing his efforts to perfection.   He was an excellent 41st place in 41:46

George Evans is also improving with each cross country race, after his stunning season on the roads.   He was 65th in 44:25.  Jim Godden was next in 45:53, and he managed to secure a top 5 age-category position.   Henry Orna was 85th in 47:04.

Sadly our ladies’ team was even more depleted than the men’s.  However we were encouraged to see 17 year old Laura Evans, daughter of George, make her debut.  In what was a very tough event, and far further than any school race she’d run, Laura came a magnificent 9th in her age category, and finished in 38:25.   She is fortunate to have inherited her father’s exceptional athletic abilities, and even more fortunate that she got her beauty and brains from her mother!   (Sorry George, couldn’t resist that one!)

However, first woman home for Thornbury was Laura Orna.   She ran a very impressive 34:16, to be 8th in category and just inside the top 50 overall.   Carol Mosses also demonstrated her improving form, and was delighted to finish well inside the hour mark.

Finally, Sunday also saw the Dursley Dozen, and the atrocious weather conditions made what is already a brutal race into a real test of mental and physical endurance.   So huge congratulations to all the TRC runners who took part, and especially so to those who got to place a sodden trail shoe on their respective podiums.   Or should that be podia?

Taryn Roberts recorded a brilliant fourth place overall, and completed the gruelling 12 miles in 1 hr and 49 minutes.    Anything under two hours on that route is very impressive.   Hannah Hamilton was not far off that mark, and came 13th overall in 2hrs and 4 minutes.    Clare Watt was third TRC woman, in 2hrs 11 mins, and was 2nd in her age category.   Emma Barnes (2hrs 27) and Sarah Newnes (2hrs and 32 min) completed the line up.

The Hobbs family are running royalty in these parts, with all three adult children competing at a high level in distance running and triathlons.   Yet their dad Dave is also an incredible runner, and seems to thrive on the trails in particular.   Dave was first TRC runner home, in 1hr 39 mins, 10th overall, and the clear winner in his age category.  Performance of the week I would suggest!

You know you’ve run well if you’re ever ahead of Dylan Roberts.   Even if Dave was stronger on the day, Dylan still performed very well, and was 19th overall in 1hr 42 mins.   Ben Bohane was next, and surely the sub-20 parkrun the day before explains the slightly slower time of 1hr 47.   Peter Cable ran 1hr 53; Ian Evans 2hrs 5mins and Garry Slater 2hrs 49mins.